Cape Malay Fish Curry

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Cape Malay Fish Curry

(Photo Attributed to Author: Sanshlistha m)

Cape Malay Fish Curry Recipe-

  • 22 oz. (600 grams) Rock Ling, or Hake fish fillets, skin removed
  • Note: You can substitute any firm white fleshed fish, such as Mahi Mahi or Grouper if you cannot get Rock Ling or Hake, which are prolific in the oceans around South Africa and so naturally used there most of the time
  • salt, to season, plus approximately 1 tsp extra
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) cooking oil
  • pinch of fennel seeds
  • pinch of cumin seeds
  • 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp crushed garlic
  • 2 Thai chili peppers, halved lengthwise
  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. ground fennel
  • ½ tsp. garam masala (regular) (a must have ingredient for authentic flavor)
  • ½ tsp. freshly grated turmeric root
  • 1 tbsp. Tikka (hot) masala, or to taste (another must have ingredient)
  • 1 tsp. tandoori (medium) masala (yet another must have ingredient)
  • 3 tomatoes, peeled, grated
  • 1 tsp tamarind pulp, mixed with 60 ml (¼ cup) boiling water and strained (you must have this ingredient)
  • 1 tbsp. raw sugar, or to taste
  • 10 fresh curry leaves, bruised (you guessed it – you have to have this!)
  • ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves
  • Freshly cooked yellow rice, to serve with
  1. Cut the fish into bite-sized pieces and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Using a wok or a large saucepan, heat the oil over high heat.
  3. Add in the cumin and fennel seeds and fry them until they are fragrant, usually only about a minute.
  4. Now add in the onion and fry until golden brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add in the chili and the garlic and fry for 1 more minute.
  5. Next add in the remaining spices, along with 2 to 3 tablespoons of water – enough to make sure the spices don’t burn and/or stick to the wok or pan. Cook for another 2 minutes.
  6. Put the tamarind pulp and tomato into the pan, turn the heat down to low, stir all ingredients together well, and cook for 5 minutes more.
  7. Now add the extra salt and sugar, and then do a taste test. You want a good balance of sweet and sour, so adjust as needed.
  8. Stir in the curry leaves and simmer until the sauce is slightly thickened, usually about 10 minutes or so.
  9. Add the salted and peppered fish pieces into the wok or pan, and carefully ladle the sauce over them, being sure they are all well coated.
  10. Put a lid on the pan or wok, reduce the heat to medium low, and simmer until the fish is cooked through – about 8 minutes, typically.
  11. Before serving your Cape Malay Fish Curry, sprinkle on the chopped coriander and serve on a generous bed of freshly cooked yellow rice.


Your tomato mixture needs to have the proper consistency and flavor before adding the fish into the pan. If you like your gravy thicker, boil and mash a small potato and mix the mash into the tomato mixture prior to adding the fish.  The fish will add its own moisture, so resist the urge to add more water at this point. Cooking fish is tender, so exercise care when stirring your curry, or you will break the pieces up. If your sauce is too watery for your liking, simply take the lid off and simmer the dish uncovered until the sauce becomes a little thicker. Cape Malay Fish Curry will taste great whether a “sturdy” soup or a very thick stew, so just go with your own personal preferences.